Culinary A-lister: Acánthum
Xanty Elias is the city’s culinary A-lister. Having trained for two years at San Sebastián’s three-starred Arzak, he returned home and quickly gained Huelva’s sole Michelin star. Changing six-monthly, his two fine-dining tasting menus include palate-thrilling dishes like beef sirloin (solomillo) with spiced lard, and tangy, mustardy mackerel with tender lupini beans. Each course can be paired with local wines, sherries or vermouths. The current 525 Sinergias menu marks the fact that 2017 is the 525th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to America (the explorer departed from a port a few miles south of Huelva) and uses ingredients brought to Europe for the first time following Columbus’ expedition.
• Eight-course menus from €48 without wine, Calle San Salvador 17, +34 959 245135, acanthum.com
Visionary tapas: Pappi’s
Juan Antonio Pérez and his family run this neighbourhood bar east of the centre and sights, and the innovative, elaborate tapas they have been making since 1981 led Elias to dub them visionaries. Bargain-priced fish and meat montaditos – Andalucían sandwiches – are Pappi’s main thing, with the most popular filling being a blend of grilled ham, seasoned chicken and aioli. Not bad for a couple of euros. Combine it with a portion of bola de rape (battered monkfish cheeks with ham and mayonnaise) and a side of cooked gambas (prawns). You’ll probably have to stand, however, as the two tables are invariably taken.
• Tapas from €2.50, Calle Conde López Muñoz 4, +34 959 23 5806
Frying tonight: Paco Moreno
Also small, also usually full and loved by locals is this small fish bar near pink-striped La Merced cathedral. Huelvans’ nickname in Spain is los choqueros thanks to their love of cuttlefish, and most reckon that Paco Moreno does the best fried choco in town. Other options include takeaway bags of squid, prawns, anchovies, marinated mackerel and crayfish tails, all of them freshly caught and well-sourced. Forget about salad or chips; the most common accompaniment is a cold bottle of cerveza. There are more tables than in Pappi’s, but they’re equally hard to snaffle, which is why many people order their food para llevar, and scoff it on a bench in Plaza de la Merced instead.
• Dishes from €9, Paseo Independencia 18, +34 959 24 3048, on Facebook
Tapas with a twist: Kalaka
This attractive space on the main, pedestrianised Avenida Pinzón is also regularly chokka with choqueros. The crowd in Kalaka is pleasingly varied: families with tots, Segway-riding teens and whispering lovebirds in the corner. They have all come for tapas that put Huelva staples to innovative use: for example, tuna tataki with beetroot purée, sesame wasabi and local strawberries; roasted cuttlefish with baby broad beans; and prawns and bechamel sauce in puff pastry. It also does Huelva’s speciality mushroom risotto, and has menus in English and Alhambra beer on tap.
• Tapas from €1.80, Avenida Martín Alonso Pinzón 20, +34 959 82 1308, kalaka.es
Market leader: Restaurante Azabache
Listed by Michelin and Spain’s own Repsol guide, this welcoming establishment is Huelva’s next most-lauded restaurant after Acánthum. It’s on a busy, narrow side street close to the Gran Teatro, and diners can sit at the bar or in a white-tablecloth dining room behind. Azabache’s extensive menu is dependent on what’s available at local markets, so you’ll just have to hope that the smoked tuna fillet with rosemary oil, shrimp carpaccio and sherry-soaked braised beef cheeks are in stock. More reliable is an unusual ratatouille made from scrambled eggs and mild manchego cheese.
• Tapas from €7, Calle Vázquez López 22, +34 959 25 7528, restauranteazabache.com
Two-tier tapas: D’Altura
A few steps closer to Plaza de las Monjas, Huelva’s focal square, is this similarly minded joint. Patrolled by enthusiastic young staff, d’Altura is particularly noteworthy for its extraordinary layout, with interlocking tiers of wood-carved, booth-style seats arranged on top of one another; the upper quartet reached via short, steep steps. Try to snare one of those lofty perches, and get stuck into the equally atypical small plates. These range from hearty blood-sausage risotto to delicate sea-anemone croquettes. Somewhere in the middle is delicious grilled pork with kabayaki salsa and fried potato slices.
• Tapas from €2.50, Avenida Martín Alonso Pinzón 20 +34 640 13 5588, daltura.es
The new kid on the block: Restaurante Gran Vía Uno
When it opened late last summer, this stylish haunt right on Plaza de las Monjas immediately became one of Huelva’s trendiest restaurants, with its familiar post-industrial features such as exposed brick, pine grilles and huge metallic ceiling pipes. There are two menus: mains or relatively classic tapas. Among the latter, pan-fried bacalao with red peppers, gorgonzola croquettes and tomatoes stuffed with, yes, more cuttlefish, score the top marks. Desserts are adventurous, especially the wicked, terrine-style chocolate en texturas. Tables on the fenced-off terrace are particularly lovely.
• Tapas from €4, Avenida Pinzón 1, +34 959 73 8310, on Facebook
Fusion gone mad: Taberna Guatiné
Guatiné is that classic sort of Spanish restaurant with multiple rooms, big family-group bookings and sparsely decorated white walls. But though traditional in look and layout, the food is anything but; rather it’s fusion gone mad, with Brazilian, Argentinian, Japanese and Italian influences all detectable on a mammoth, regularly-changing menu. Flagship dishes are fried goose eggs with tangy mushrooms, delicate tuna steaks, and moreish provolone croquettes. Marking that 525th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage, a roster of special Ibero-American menus, available on Thursdays, showcase fare from several Latin American countries.
• Tapas from €4.80, Calle Miguel Redondo 4, +34 959 28 0298, guatine.bar
Food without rules: Puro Chup Chup
Diners at this long, narrow, dimly lit gastrobar are promised “iconoclastic Huelvan food” with “no rules” – and this is definitely what they get. The madcap menu options include such eyecatchers as “Spanish noodles”, a paella and chow mein mash-up with celeriac, pork ribs, pak choi, Peruvian mayo, soy sauce and white fish. Some dishes are overambitious, but the “fake lasagne” – whisky-marinated squid inside rice wafer, served alongside spicy sausage and egg yolk – is deliciously punchy, and Peking duck tacos also delight. Most plates come curiously arranged, in high-sided bowls or small red clay-pot saucepans.
• Tapas from €4.50, Calle Rábida 6, +34 603 62 8190, on Facebook
Play the market: Mercado del Carmen
This partly covered market is mainly a space to watch chefs and housewives inspect Huelva’s freshest produce. Huge hanging pork cuts, razor clams tightly packed together like cigarillos, and rows of strange, boggle-eyed fish recently netted in the nearby ocean are all on show. Watch out for the clams (almejas gordas) at Elisabeth (stall number 97): they’re prone to projecting jets of oily liquid at observers. Specialities such as local olive oil or cured goat’s cheese make good gifts, and the snacking opportunities are great. Charcutería Miguel Romero (105-6) sells €2 bags of chicharrones (pork scratchings), while Frutería María Conde (#145) does small packs of the area’s acclaimed strawberries.
• Avenida de la Ria 2, mercadodelcarmen.com